For the Month of May, Foster Care Month, Voices will feature guest blogs from organizations that are a part of our Foster Care Unified Policy Network.
Guest Author: Cassie Cunningham, Children’s Home Society
During Foster Care month, and every other month of the year, Children’s Home Society of Virginia focuses on the importance of permanency for children and youth with foster care experience. As an organization, we recognize the trauma that children face prior to and while in foster care and focus on healing that trauma. Trauma, if untreated, can lead to lifelong health consequences. The good news is trauma can be treated and children can heal from trauma through resiliency. In particular, our agency finds healing for children by building permanent families and lifelong relationships.
For some children in foster care, they are able to be reunited with their families and build those relationships back up after their experience in foster care. For the children and youth we work with, they are unable to be reunited with their families. This leaves two options: the child stays in temporary foster care placements, or finds permanency through adoption. The nature of temporary placements can do two things: create additional trauma and prevent healing from previous and ongoing trauma. We work to find the right permanent family so the child can begin to form healthy lifelong relationships which is one of the first steps in allowing them to heal from trauma.
Our teams work to recruit families and parents who understand trauma and are ready, willing, and able to provide a healing space for their new child. This could be a family simply interested in adopting, it could be a past teacher, a family friend, or a variety of other relationships. It could be a married couple, a married couple with other children, or a single parent. We find the right family for the child – not the other way around, focusing on the needs and desires of the child. Once we find the right family for the child, our work continues to ensure permanency for that child.
We help the families adjust their parenting style to allow the child to heal. In fact, we begin this work from the start, requiring an extensive training in trauma and attachment for individuals interested in adopting through our agency. We continue this work after a child has been placed with their new family to help the parent(s) implement what they learned in their initial training. By requiring this training and providing support to implement that training, we work to ensure that children remain with their adoptive family permanently. Ensuring this permanency is what will slowly allow the child to heal from trauma and reduce potential lifelong health implications from that trauma.
Unfortunately, in Virginia we have a large number of youth who age out of foster care, meaning they never find a permanent family. In addition to our adoption work, we also work with youth who have aged out of foster care to help them establish lifelong relationships that will allow them to heal from trauma. We work with youth to find stability through housing, employment, education and most importantly, permanent relationships in whatever form that may take – a mentor, a reconnected family member, or a number of other relationships. We firmly believe all children and youth deserve permanency and are dedicated to helping them find that.
During foster care month, we encourage you to explore how you can help children in foster care heal from trauma. We know that not everyone can adopt but everyone can help in some way – whether it is advocating for issues at the General Assembly, volunteering with an adoption agency, or continuing to bring awareness to these issues. Every child deserves a thriving family and we hope you will join us in the work to make that a reality.
Cassie Cunningham is the Policy and Research Analyst at Children’s Home Society.
Children’s Home Society of Virginia is a full-service, private, nonprofit 501(c)(3), non-sectarian licensed child-placing agency, and one of Virginia’s oldest adoption agencies.Read More Blog Posts